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U.S.-European Strategic Management Study
Objectives and Findings
(Participant List )

Study Objectives

The purpose of this study, which we conducted in the late 80's and early 90's,  was to learn how the top management teams at some of the leading and prominent large firms were changing the way they work working together, both horizontally and vertically, to be able to move faster.

While our regular client base is with smaller companies, the companies we studied looked more like the companies researched in the best seller, In Search of Excellence. We studied these larger firms (See Participant List) first, because the speed issue is more difficult for them, and second, because we knew they were working hard to be more nimble and responsive. Small companies naturally move fast. Larger firms must think deeply about how to organize for speed. We knew they were doing just that, and set out to learn, and then distill, the principles they were discovering.

Study Highlights

While in general, we found the U.S. firms to be more leading edge than their European counterparts, we learned something from every participant. Here are some of the highlights:

BMW - remarkable job rotation, leading to an exceptional esprit de corps. "We rose from the ashes of 69"

Jaguar - Sir John Egan's inspiration for us to dig more deeply into his question:    "How do I get the man on the line to think the way I am - fast?"

Peter Drucker - Who personally helped us better answer that question, clarified the issues surrounding upward and downward communication, and led us to Ford.

Ford - Without changing the physical organization, Ford designed an upward and strategic communication system that cut their entire 300,000-person company into two layers. Be sure to remind us to tell you how they did it. It was an incredible feat.

Marriott and Walt Disney - Developing goals and processes to accelerate the actual making of strategic decisions

American Airlines - Singular focus around the central question:
How do we need to change the way we are doing business
to compete more effectively?


We concluded that to gain speed in strategic decision-making, companies needed to improve their strategic processes in three ways:

1. Reduce emphasis on the annual planning cycle
2. Replace it with better year-around processes
3. Expand involvement deeper to include the entire company

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